Welfare Policy and Reproductive Health:

“Capping” a Family’s Benefits

Policy makers have long grappled with the complex questions of how to reduce poverty and promote economic self-sufficiency among the poor. Recent efforts have focused on how to influence key behaviors such as the decision to have children outside of marriage. One common legislative proposal has been to eliminate the traditional incremental increase in monthly benefits families typically receive after another child is born. This policy has been dubbed a “family cap” or “child exclusion.” This issue brief reviews federal and state laws related to the family cap and summarizes existing research findings about the impact of these policies on birth rates, abortion, and contraceptive use. It also examines public opinion on the subject.

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